Food and Food Shortages During the War

Fit men were sent to the battle fields and horses were requisitioned to transport equipment. A few men who were deemed unfit for military service were sent to work on the land. Most of the responsibility for producing the food for both civilians and the troops however, was undertaken by women and schoolchildren. As the war progressed food became scarcer, rationing was introduced in 1918 following years of U-Boat attacks on British supply ships. The Loughborough Echo of 4th May 1917 reported that more women were employed on the land than formerly. Many of them had previously been working in factories and had no kind of experience or training in farm work.

Speaking in 1917, Miss Talbot, Director of the Women’s Branch of the Food Production Department declared ‘We have to prevent hunger. Every ounce of food which can be grown in this country must be grown and every woman who can give a hand in this vastly important work, must give a hand.” The Women’s Land Army was formed in the same year.

Throughout the war people had been encouraged to save food and not to waste it, but even this was not sufficient and by late 1917 food rationing was on its way in. Men and women working in industry or manual labour – and some women in service – were allowed a larger ration of bread. There were queues for essential provisions at grocers’ and butchers’ shops. School dinners were introduced for children during World War 1.

Women were exorted to fight the war on the domestic front, this from the ‘Win the War Cookery Book’: “Women of Britain…… Our soldiers are beating the Germans on land. Our sailors are beating them on sea. You can beat them in the larder and the kitchen”

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